Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Reads of 2009

1) The Hawk is Dying by Harry Crews

Reading the right novel at the right time in one's life is the sort of thing that happens rarely in a lifetime. This story is about a man's commitment to complete something exceptional regardless of the fears and expectations of those around him. I don't know if I can name a narrative that has touched me more. I strongly suggest this book to anyone who has artistic inclinations and has felt been made to feel out of place because of them.

2) Drop Edge of Yonder by Rudolph Wurlitzer

The book opens up with someone drowning as a frozen lake surface breaks beneath the character's feet. The book offers that sort of sublime immersion. This adventure of a novel settles into some sort of unmovable crevasses of man's self-destructive dance with one's own impulse towards violence, liberty, and masculinity. A ridiculous story, like Sam Peckinpah and Salvador wait more like Yves Tanguy. Actually it is just like Jaramusch's Dead-Man movie. In fact, I read somewhere that Jaramusch stole the idea for Dead Man from Wurlitzer. This book is fascinating and dare I say fun.

3) The Centaur in the Garden by Moacyr Scliar

Not since reading Italo Calvino have I been so charmed by the fantasical. This book is a joy to read. It is about a Centaur who becomes a man, and everything he loses along the way. of Calvino and Keret Erget should pick this up immediately.

4) The Living and the Dead by Jason

Jason is simply a master of graphic novella form. His work is best when there are few if any words. This story is simply told but makes such a deep comment about our need to be loved and it can drive us towards. Remarkable. And dont let the doggies and birdies turn you off from it.

5) Dogs and Water by Anders Nilsen

Stark. Powerful. I'd like to see more theatre as direct, immediate, and challenging as this book. Visually compelling without anything ornate. People ask me, what is the difference between comic books and graphic novels... well this is a great example of what a graphic novel is.

Honorable Mentions

Chance in Hell by Gilbert Hernandez

I like both the Hernandez Brothers, but I love Gilbert just a little more. It was a toss up between this and Sloth.

by Yuichi Yokoyama

Pretty amazing. Barely narrative, but still filled with a tension bordering even on menace. Every page is a challenge well worth your time. Never have I seen such immersive world building in a graphic novel.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On Criticism

Rather than offering the "final word" on an art object or performance, the very best sort of criticism seeks to begin discussion.

For example, if the critic finds the attitudes and actions of the characters onstage to be villainous, misogynistic, noble, endearing, etc... It is much more exciting when there shared reflections on the work become part of a conversation about "why" this piece rather than "what is" this piece.

A mere prediction about the value of consuming a work of art isn't ask exciting or engaging as the sort of criticism that becomes the first volley are interpretation, exchange of ideas not only about the piece of art, but ourselves and its affect on that.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Non Traditional Spaces and Approaches - Part One

In preparation for the upcoming forum on Non-Traditional Spaces and Approaches, I'll be sketching out posts over the next few weeks regarding various artists and ideas in the hopes of sparking the conversation. More info on the forum and the summit are available by clicking here and here.

I've never been truly engaged by the Puppet Bike. That is not a artistic dig, I just have never seen a live performance that wasn't 2 stuffed animals wagging themselves at each other. Whereas the content doesn't resonate with me, the spirit of the endeavor does. Here is an artist that is truly free from so many of the constraints and obstacles that hinder and concern an entire section of the storefront theatre makers.

Now one might say, well that is all well and good for a man who makes simple children's puppet shows... but how am I supposed to realize my artistic vision from the back of a 3 wheel bicycle? Well why not? Use the empty space in the back of the bike or the front of the bike or in a trailer behind the bike to express your narrative. If the design of your narrative is longer than you envision a crowd being able to gather and focus in a public space, then focus on the premise of your story and create a condensed version.

The performance can go anywhere the bike can. That enables an amazing self-reliance.

Mobility, modularity, inventiveness, distillation... these are lessons that any artist could learn from Puppet Bike. If you are committed or merely interested in Non-traditional spaces and approaches, you should ask yourself how such an approach to art and real estate could enable you as a storyteller.


You can also take the idea of a mobile stage and expand it the way INCOGNITO, INC did (h/t to Ben Thiem for helping me remember the company's name)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


As the Mammals Theatre company continue to present our new show BREED WITH ME, I am going to focus my FavoriteThings on some of my favorite genre websites, artists, etc... things that inspire me and inspire my art, art like BREED WITH ME

Seeing a Richard Foreman show was tranformative for me. I had never seen anything like it. His style, his aesethic is singular and has inspired me for most of my artistic life. Whenever I am feeling less than brave about putting up a moment in a show like BREED WITH ME, I remember this man's art and his biography, and I am reinforced. He says this is his last show (IDIOT SAVANT) or at the least his last piece of theatre. I hope not.

Other Related FavoriteThingsThisWeek posts...
Aly Fell

Monday, December 14, 2009

Putting out the casting call!

The Mammals are getting ready to cast their spring show, THE MEATLOCKER. It is a period boxing noir/science fiction/horror story set in the 50s. We need tough guys who are easy going and excellent actors. Sound like you? Interested in being a part of it? Email us at for more information!


As the Mammals Theatre company continue to present our new show BREED WITH ME, I am going to focus my FavoriteThings on some of my favorite genre websites, artists, etc ... things that inspire me and inspire my art, art like BREED WITH ME

Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith has created some of the most immediate, simple, powerful imagery about women I have ever seen. I am always compelled and influenced by her work, especially when thinking about characters like the femme fatale in the Mammals' BREED WITH ME.

When I look at these sculptures, I've always wanted to see them come to life, to watch/witness stories starring them as the protagonists.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Non-Traditional Spaces and Approaches Forum

Where: Zoo Studios 4001 N Ravenswood Ave Ste B-1
When: Sunday January 17th at 7:00pm

RSVP by sending an email to with your name and what questions/goals/etc you have and/or want to get out of this forum.

If you just want to meet, to ask questions, or think you have something valuable to add to the conversation... let me know.

Currently, I'm working on discussion points, etc for the evening. Now is a great time to tell me what you want out of such a forum.

If you want to know where I get off thinking I can head up one of these things, well then you ought to come see my latest endeavor also at Zoo Studio as well as introduce yourself to me!

I promise to start posting about other things soon but...

We (the Mammals) have been working hard on our newest show BREED WITH ME. And the reviews are in. I hope you'll consider coming to see our show. Below, we've listed some links to folks who have seen it and had some very positive things to say.

Don Hall's review for AWG
Zac Thompson's review for the Chicago Reader
Lisa Buscani's review for NewCity
Caitlin Montanye Parrish's review for Timeout
Jack Helbig's Chicago Reader review from 2003

You can imagine getting this show up has taken the better part of my time for the past 6 weeks. It has been a labor or love. However, I may now be able to start writing about some other arts/theatre relating things!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Pulp Art Cover!

I'm getting ready to make my first Lulu publication and I'm working on the cover art. I'll be putting a number of these up during the next few weeks. Let me know which ones are your favorites!

And go check out the show too!

Friday, December 04, 2009

BTW - My show BREED WITH ME opens tonight!

Here's all the info...


written and directed by Bob Fisher

"I was alternately fascinated and terrified by the wonderfully perverse story" - Jack Helbig w/the Reader

Aliens, Ghosts, Noir... BREED WITH ME (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, Chicago Reader) is the Mammals' Hardboiled story of a man whose sexual appetites have forced him to run away from his past into the American desert where he falls into the clutches of the ultimate femme fatale.

BREED WITH ME is the first of three plays in a cycle entitled THE NOIR TRIPTYCH. Part Two was DEVILS DON'T FORGET, previously presented in Spring of 2009. Part Three, THE MEATLOCKER is currently targeted to premiere in spring of 2010.

To find out more go to the Mammals blog at

Cast: Ron Kroll, Don Hall, Sara Gorsky, Jim Hicks, Anthony Stamilio, Dennis Frymire, Meghann Tabor

Asst Director: Jesus Contreras
Costume Design: Adam Dodds

Performance Dates are as follows

Dec 4,5
Dec 11, 12
Dec 18, 19
Jan 8,9
Jan 16 (no show Jan 15th)
Jan 22, 23

Industry Night Monday Jan 18th

All performances are at 10pm – BYOB
Zoo Studio
4001 N. Ravenswood Ste B-1
Chicago, IL 60613

Performances From Dec 4th thru January 16th suggested donations $15.00. Jan 22nd and Jan 23 will be closing weekend fundraisers. Tickets for Jan 22nd and Jan 23rd are $15.00 (post show party and drinks included)

Reservations can be made by calling 866-593-4614

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


As the Mammals Theatre company get ready to open our new show BREED WITH ME, I am going to focus my FavoriteThings on some of my favorite genre websites, artists, etc

Aly Fell